This is number 10 in a series of blog posts on my 15 most effective sales tactics.

In my last blog post, I promised to reveal the three best questions to ask an inbound lead.

Ask the wrong questions and you’ll either miss hot prospects or spend a ton of effort on those who don’t’ buy from you.

Ask the right questions, and you’ll quickly tell hot a prospect from time waster.

There are a lot of people who say that you shouldn’t call someone who completes a form on your website because they’re not ready to buy. They recommend peppering them with more and more and more content, hoping they’ll call you when they’re ready. But as Guy Kawasaki is fond of saying “Hope is not a strategy!

Now, I agree that just because someone fills in a form on your website, it doesn’t mean they are ready to buy.

But research by the ITSMA says 70% of decision-makers want to talk to salespeople during the early stages of their buying process, and the Rain Group’s research says that 71% of buyers want to talk to sellers when they’re looking for new ideas.

So the next time someone completes a form on your website, don’t wait, PICK UP THE FREAKIN’ PHONE! 

The MIT Lead Response Study showed only .6% of companies responded in less than five minutes and less than 25% of companies that receive a web lead pick up the phone.

The big questions are: when is the best time to call, and what are the best questions to ask?

When Is The Best Time To Phone?

The MIT response study also showed that when you follow on an inbound in five minutes or less, you’re over ten times more likely to reach the person who completed the form than if you waited just 30 minutes and research by InsideSales.com shows the 50% of the time buyers choose the vendor who responds first!

Many sales experts, including myself, are firm in their belief that the more relevant a call or email, the more likely the prospect will engage with a salesperson. But how can you research a prospect to make your call relevant when you have to call them in less than five minutes?

You don’t!

Because they’ve demonstrated their interest in a certain resource, I would argue that you already know enough to make an initial call.

Once you get an understanding of what buying stage the prospect is in – and how you should engage with them going forward – then you can perform the necessary research.

Here’s a simple way to remember this:

  • Inbound leads –  salespeople should act, then learn, then act
  • Outbound leads – salespeople should learn, then act, then learn some more

Every minute that ticks by after you receive an inbound lead reduces your chance of earning a new customer.

So don’t wait, pick up the phone.

Those with cat-like phone reflexes are most likely win in the end.

What Are The Best Questions To Ask?

When you pick up the phone start by saying something like,

I’m following up on your information request. Can I take two minutes of your time and ask three really quick questions?

In all the years that I’ve used this method the answer has always been “yes.”

Then, launch into the following three questions:

1) “Did you get the email with the link to the resources you’re looking for?”

Before anything else, you want to make sure they got what they were looking for.

If they misspelt their email address, you can resend the information to the correct address.

If it ended up in their spam folder, you can tell them how to get it out or route it to them via another channel.

Follow through on this initial interaction between your company and the prospect to demonstrate your reliability.

Now you want to understand what are they working on so you need to ask question number 2.

2) “When you read about this or saw this, what resonated and made you say, ‘Hey I should check this out’?”

I typically include the question, “How did you hear about us?” in my forms, so I don’t need to ask this question during my follow up. Instead, I pose this second question to uncover the specific words, images, or themes that captured their attention and compelled the prospect to click.

This information is relevant to both Marketing and Sales. Part of a salesperson’s responsibility is to help their colleagues in Marketing understand what’s working and what’s not, and this type of feedback goes a long way towards that goal.

In addition, learning what words grab a buyers’ attention helps salespeople tailor their emails and communication for maximum engagement and response.

Once you understand what captured their attention you want to ask a question that will tell you if they are potentially a hot prospect or not.

That’s when I ask the most important of the three questions.

3) “I’m curious. What happened recently that made this content more relevant or more important?”

This question not only uncovers the trigger event that drove your customer to your content but also reveals what buying stage they’re in (for more information on buying stages, check out this post). And once you know their buying stage, you also know how to proceed:

  • Status Quo: Nurture. Put this prospect in a lead nurturing program and find ways to add value until they experience an event triggered dissatisfaction and pushed the prospect into the Window of Dissatisfaction™.
  • Searching for Alternatives: Ignore. This lead has already chosen their preferred vendor and is now just getting three prices so they can justify their choice to others.
  • The window of Dissatisfaction: Sell! This is a hot prospect. Now is the time to use the 7 Second Sale and reel them in!

Sometimes the hardest part of selling is knowing when is the best time to reach out to inbound prospects again.

I’ll cover that issue in my next blog post on the Three Best Times to Follow Up With an Inbound Lead.

P.S. With your inbound leads who are already searching for alternatives, the only strategy I’ve seen effectively work here is to be the least risky choice alternative and keep calling back to see if their preferred choice has let them down. Once they’ve been let down, they become even more risk-averse, and since you’ve positioned yourself as the least risky alternative, you become their new preferred vendor.